Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Macaroni never again cheese

I have purchased some bright, shiny new vegan cookbooks. I wouldn't recommend them. One of them, written by a doctor, has a  very good first section, explaining why avoiding stuff that comes from animals benefits you and the planet, but the recipes are a bit uninspiring. The other, written by some Irish celebrity is bloody awful. Her writing style is bright and breezy and the pictures are nice, so you are tempted to try her stuff, but everything I've done so far has been a disaster. I made something called a macaroni no cheese, which incorporates a roast butternut blended with coconut milk, mustard and something else. It was fucking vile.
I won't name the writers, they are clearly energised by what  do and mean nothing but good, Problem is they seem to want to convince us that what they are eating isn't vegan, as a lot of vegan authors do. I can only think that the butternut concoction exists because it looks a bit like a cheese sauce, as it is a gaudy bright yellow, like a Dairy Lee  slice. And about as appetising.
The many and varied blogs do better at providing recipes, or ideas for recipes, but you don't really need to be trawling vegan websites or the bookshops for inspiration, you can always just cook what you've always cooked, but omit the bits that once belonged to a mom or a dad or a cute furry baby. Mushrooms, aubergines, and tofu, yes, tofu, can be great friends  if you really must pretend there is something akin to meat on your plate.
As the young un's grew up, with a great aversion to anything resembling a vegetable, I'd sneak the buggers into their meals, a bolognese sauce being the classic. I'd only use a small packet of mince and stretch it out by chopping up onions, mushrooms, carrots and celery really small. Somehow, they'd manage to pick their way around all the veg, and there they would remain, forlorn and defeated on the plate, as the nippers left the table.
The solution was simple, I'd just whizz all the veg up in a processor. You can make mushrooms look like mince in about 3 seconds flat and there is no way they can be picked around, same with carrots, or courgette, or aubergine; they don't look like mince but they become impossible to avoid. All you do then is cook it up as you would any other bolognese or chilli, or moussaka, or cottage pie. This even won plaudits several times from the daughters ex boyfriend, who claimed to be allergic to 'shrooms. Well, it gets simpler, just omit the meat all together, increase the quantity of veg, and you have a vegan dinner.
Let's face it, you don't really have meat for the flavour, not even bacon, the flavour of which comes from the curing process. You stud your leg of lamb with garlic, rosemary and anchovies, you do an apple sauce and a sage and onion stuffing to make pork taste nice, you smother yer chicken in butter and oregano before sticking a lemon up its arse, and you fancy up yer beef with with mustard and horseradish, not to mention the gravy. Oh, man. The gravy. Then there are all the curries and chillies and oyster sauces and what not. Getting flavour into vegetables is no harder, and is probably easier.
There's a million things you can do with aubergines to add some meaty variety to yer plate, the simplest of which is to slice 'em lengthwise to look like thick steaks, marinade 'em in something nice, like harrisa, or a chilli bean sauce, or some Italian or Frenchified thing, and bake for 20 minutes. Same with tofu, take it out of the packet, put it on plate, put another plate on top and some tins of beans to force out excess water, then slice, marinade, preferably in something spicy and bake. Coat the buggers in polenta, if you want, for a crispy finish . It's all a piece of piss, really.
One of my daughters favourite meals, which I would cook even before she went vegetarian is simple, quick, cheap and delicious and I had never considered it to be vegetarian  or vegan, it was just a nice meal. Here it is
Pasta with Broccoli and Tomato
A load of wholemeal pasta, any kind you like
A packet of purple sprouting or other broccoli with a long stem,
A packet of nice tomatoes, not shit tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 red chilli or a big sprinkle of chilli flakes
Nutritional yeast flakes

Salt and Pepper
Put the pasta on and while that's doing slice garlic, really thin, warm it up in a good glug of olive oil, then add the tomatoes, leave 'em to to collapse a bit. Chop all the broccoli up and throw that in too. As pasta is done throw a big spoon of cooking water in, drain the pasta and throw that in too. That's it, done, serve with a big handful or three of nutritional yeast flakes chucked on top, maybe some garlic bread and a few leaves. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Pie Without a Shepherd

I've mentioned that a baked spud can be alright without oil or butter if you you use hummus and some other nice flavours instead, but there's probably oil in the hummus. I've used the chickpea cooking water rather than oil to make hummus, and it's OK, but you don't get that lovely smooth texture, and, day by day it seems to become grainier. Still, it's clear that you can significantly reduce yer oil consumption without too much hardship.
If I use a spread at all, it's a thing called Pure. It's not nice, it's not horrible, it just is, and does the job for my current snack of choice, an onion bagel topped with that stuff and Marmite.
When it comes to sweating or frying veg, Esselstyn, and others, recommend steam frying. This, frankly, is a pain in the arse, and requires the same attention you'd give a risotto. Essentially, you put yer onions and whatnot in the pan and add tiny amounts of water to stop it all sticking and burning, then keep adding as it evaporates. I do it on the weekend, but in the week? Fuck that.
A couple of potato topped pies have turned alright. No meat, dairy or oil, was involved. I can't quite remember exactly what I did to the spuds but there was definitely no milk, butter or cheese. As far as I can remember it was a mix of potato, sweet potato and parsnip, all I used to mash 'em with was a bit of almond milk. I then added in a load of kale and spinach that I had steam fried down and a load of nutritional yeast flakes before topping the lentil/veg mix and finishing in the oven. It sounds like a faff,  and it is a faff, but a faff you don't mind, coz it winds up lovely. Even the bloody cat likes it. The little ginger bastard.
Shepherdless Pie
An onion, diced
A stick of celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine,
A handful of shitakes, chopped really fucking small,
A tin of lentis
A tin of flageolets
A big squirt of tomato puree
A load of frozen peas
A decent sized spoon of herbs de provence
A shake of soy sauce
A couple of veg stock cubes
Enough water to cover that lot
Summat like that, anyway
The topping
4-5 spuds
A big sweet spud
A parsnip
An onion
A couple of big handfuls of kale or spinach or cabbage or all 3.
About 3 big handfuls of nutritional yeast flakes
Put yer onion celery garlic and carrot and a big frying pan and steam fry till all getting a bit soft, chuck in the puree and cook that down for a bit, then just chuck the rest of it in and cook down until it looks the right consistency to make a spud topped pie, probably 30-40 minutes, then stick it all in a big baking dish
For the topping, if yer using an onion, steam fry or fry it, on a low heat, for about an hour, about 45 mins in, chuck the greens in, turn the heat up a bit, let it all get a bit crispy. Boil the roots up for about 20 minutes, then mash with some non dairy milk, the onion and greens and the nutritional yeast flakes, dollop all that onto the lentil and bean mixture, chuck it into a hot oven about 200c for 20 minutes or so and yer dinner is done. 
Jamie Oliver is to blame for all the sweet potato use. I can't actually stand the bloody things, but Jamie insists that they are some kind of a miracle food, and only a fool would ignore Jamie. Problem is, they  are crap and their texture is nasty, hence, although I'm using  them a  lot, they are always combined with something else.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Mercy, Mercy, Me

The 30 day challenges came to a merciful end and then it all became effortless. I thought about eating meat but the notion just wasn't appealing. I thought about having a nice, hot, bubbling slice of cheese on toast, but it didn't float the boat, and, then, I realised that for 10 days or so I had not had any dairy at all, not even in tea.
Before deciding that I just wasn't going to eat it I had thought that cheese would be the thing that would keep me from being dairy free. I love cheese. I'll pay more for a tiny slab of cheese than I will for a bottle of wine or olive oil. but it hasn't been much of an issue.
I think one of the benefits of being meat and dairy free is that you eat nutritious food. Nearly everything I eat is pretty healthy and I don't really get hungry, ever. I do get greedy, but I don't get hungry. It requires a bit of effort, but not that much and I tend to cook a fair bit on the weekend, and there's plenty leftover to take to work through the week.
I have some staples, such as a sweet spud and lentil soup, pea and spinach soup,  black bean soup, leek and spud soup, chestnut and mushroom soup, and pretty much every day I have one of those, or another soup, with a wrap for dinner, having started the day with my world famous porridge.
I make a big pot of humous twice a week, using dried chickpeas, which only cost about 3 quid for a fucking huge bag: 8 oz of dried chickpeas when soaked and cooked, yield plenty, about 3 tins worth, probably, and they are much nicer. I spread a load of it on a wholemeal wrap, add a load of chopped spinach, lettuce and me pickled peppers and carrots, and there you go, dinner, more or less, done. I do vary it a bit, but, essentially, that's it. That, and few bits of fuit, keep me really full all day. I could probably do without tea, but I'm an old fashioned chap and when it's teatime, I have tea, regardless of whether or not I'm hungry.
I am practically existing on pulses. Bizarrely, having given up meat and dairy, I was assailed by bloody gout. I thought it was the pulses causing that, which pissed me off, but, apparently, the purines in beans don't cause gout. I also thought it was slightly odd to be scoffing so many beans and lentils every day, but I rationalised that I had thought nothing of scoffing meat and dairy every single day for fifty six and a half years and that hadn't done me any harm, apart from being a fat bastard with a fucked up heart, needing 5 different tablets every single day.
Tea, quite often, is a baked spud. Until a few weeks ago I would not have dreamed of having a baked spud that wasn't drenched in butter and cheese and topped with bacon and its delicious fat. Not even in my worst nightmares. Those days are over, for now. I get  that big pot of humous and I fill the damn spud up with that, and top it with a load of caramelised onions, sometimes I add a bit of harissa to the humous, just to vary the bastard a bit. Alternativley, I use a bit of oil and top it with onions and wilted spinach and a big handful of nutritional yeast flakes. Often, a tin of beans is involved .
It's all very well as long as things go to plan. 
I just had a disastrous weekend. Everything I coooked turned to shit. I did a bean soup which was like a pebble soup even though I'd soaked the beans for about 12 hours and cooked 'em for 2. I whizzed up the lentil and sweet spud soup with a cinammon stick and star anise still in it, rendering it inedible. I cut the spuds for a moussaka too thick, and, by the time they'd cooked through, the aubergines had as good as melted away. There was too much salt in the goddam polenta.
This is where it's problematic.....when everything you have cooked is inedible, ruined or revolting. In the old days it would be simple; have cheese on toast or a bacon roll, or a ham sarnie, or all 3, with chips, and maybe an egg and, possibly, ham sandwich. All of these are still an option, but I'm choosing not to eat those things, and I have yet to come up with something really quick, really simple, and  really fucking nice to eat that I can knock up in a couple of minutes when I can't be arsed cooking.
The forecasters tell us that winter will be upon us this weekend, so I'll share me sweet spud and lentil recipe, because it's a right cockle warmer. If you are not the forgetful type, and you have the patience to steam fry the onions stick a star anise and cinammon stick in at the beginning, makes it nicer, but it's nice enough without, and I won't be bothering again.
1 big sweet potato
1 big onion
1 stick of celery
4 cloves garlic
Big knob of ginger (not Prince Harry)
6 ounce red lentils
A couple of veg stock cubes or some boullion powder
A shitload of good quality curry powder
A tin of coconut milk
About 2 pints water, depending on how thick you like it
Either soften the onion celery and garlic in oil, or, steam fry 'em until they get soft, then bung everything else in, let it bubble away for 20-30 minutes then whizz up
Omit the first bit, just chuck it all in and let it cook for 20-30 minutes and whizz up. It really doesn't make much difference

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Perfect Skin

I stuck with the vegan challenges to the bitter end, even though they pissed me  off. 
It’s funny how the mind works. It was annoying me that the vegan bods were recommending shit recipes, when the reality is I’m perfectly capable of serving up a plate of decent nosh that doesn’t have meat or dairy in it and have done so regularly, for years. Apart from the bacon sarnies, we only ever really had meat on a Sunday, although we were cheese fiends. Wanna make something taste nice? Chuck a load of cheeses on it, any kind will do.
So there was no need for all my angst. If you have tomatoes, garlic and chilli, yer laughing.
Having said that, I still sought assistance, mostly from the web. I’ve read loads of vegan blogs, and lots of ‘em are really good, apart from the ones by well brought up middle class gals with perfect skin. I admit that this might have more to do with my innate class warrior than it does with the content of their blogs.
When I was a much younger man and studied a bit of English political history, I came across The Ranters, who remain my favourite dissenters. Essentially, they would get pissed, lark about and rail against the property owning classes. They were quite a force, which is why they are so well known now.
One of their aims was to disseminate information to the majority of the peasantry who couldn’t read or write, and who were kept in line by the priests and the gentry who controlled the flow of information, summat like that, anyway. I think there had been some breakthrough in printing at the time and the world was full of pissed pamphleteers. 
At the dawn of the internet age, and the arrival of the phenomenon of blogging I had hopes that we would all become Ranters reborn. That the voiceless would have a voice. The elites and the hegemonic media could lie all they wanted, but the truth was out there and it would be told. We were all Lord Fucking Rothermere now!
It doesn’t seem to have happened. We don’t rant (well, we do, but ya know what I mean), we shop, we  gossip, we  selfie, we spotify and the elites continue to take the piss. The daughters of the elites are all bloody vegans, and they are all blogging about it. Which is OK, actually, because I’ve picked up some nice recipes.
I’ve got loads of the buggers bookmarked, and I’ll share them, bit by bit. My favourite vegan blog by far though is Thug Kitchen, which most definitely isn’t written by a Chelsea Girl. I adapted a spud and cabbage bake thing from it, and it was ace, quite incredible really. It was the sort of thing that would usually be baked in a cheesy b├ęchamel sauce, but instead was baked in a mix made from garlic, chickpeas, some other bits and pieces and almond milk. I repeat; infuckingcredibe!
All the blogs are great actually, as they give you ideas to do with things you might already have in your cupboard and have wondered why the hell you bought ‘em, like nutritional yeast flakes. I have now given up all dairy as well as meat, and I am addicted to nutritional yeast flakes. They sound right tasty, don't they?
One of the posh gal blogs had a recipe for pickled carrot and peppers, which I now have, every day. There are a lot of things that I now have every day, by the way. They are simple to prepare and are ace. They bring  a fantastic tang and crunch which really refreshes yer head. A taste  explosion in the brainbox.  They improve any sandwich or wrap. Typically, I can’t find the bloody recipe now, but my own approximation of it is alright. 
Here it is:
Put this lot in a little saucepan and warm through to dissolve the salt and sugar
About 8 fluid oz of water
About 4 fluid oz organic cider vinegar
About 2 teaspoons each sugar and salt
About a tablespoon of coriander seeds
A few strips of lemon peel
Cut a couple of carrots into matchsticks/ batons/ thin little sticks
Slice a red pepper, about same size as the carrots
Slice a red onion nice and thin
Put 'em all into a sealable jar. Pour the liquid in, leave for about 12 hours. Roberta is yer auntie.
Lord knows how long it lasts, not long in this house.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Milk and Alcohol

I started my new regime discreetly.

Knowing my history of failure, I thought it best to keep it to myself. Of course this discretion lasted until the first Sunday, when I served myself a completely different meal to the others. The Mrs then said she would eat what I eat, so the two of us are at it. I didn’t mention that I had also significantly reduced, if not given up all dairy, which meant I was still getting a morning cuppa.  
I had signed up for 3 (three) 30 day vegan challenges. They were all shit. I’m sure they mean well, but their advice is enough to put you off before you start. They assume that as well as meat and dairy, you are also giving up all sense of taste and discernment. They send you an encouraging message as well as a recipe every day, 2 recipes in fact, one for a cook and one for a lazy bastard.
They all recommended lots of processed ready meals and stuff like vegan bacon and burgers and other shit that I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. What I wanted was inspiration to make easy, tasty food, from proper ingredients, not pretend meat. I’ve never really been a scoffer of ready meals or meat burgers, although it was my utter devotion to bacon that probably did for me in the first place. Prior to starting this new adventure I had grown partial to the occasional Linda Mcartney  mozzarella burger, which I would top with a nice slice of grilled streaky bacon. Proper bacon, from a proper pig, not from some food chemist’s overactive imagination.
It wasn’t long before I just ignored my daily vegan challenge emails, as they  just irritated the shit out of me, although they were useful as a countdown to 30 days. It was a strange time in my head; I hadn’t really decided to adopt  a vegan diet, just to be more mindful about what I eat, and to endeavour to cut meat out of the diet. I still thought I’d eat fish and I did not think that there was any realistic chance of giving up dairy, and wasn’t even going to try……..but I’d signed up for a challenge, and, by fuck, I was going to complete it.
Round about the time I started, Jamie Oliver had a new series on the box….Jamie cooks superfoods, summat like that. Well, Jamie is no ones idea of a vegan, but I got more inspiration and better ideas from him than I did, the various vegan organisations. I could cook stuff for the others, and just omit the meat for me….. his new recipes are very heavy on the veg. I can’t remember what I did now, but it was all nice.
Apart from the milk in the tea, the accidenal cheese in the topping for the fishless pie, the chocolates, the crisps and the alcohol, I was doing alright, I think.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Who Ate All The Pies?

Here we go: another attempt at changing the diet for the better. This time it’s motivated as much by a desire to save the planet as it is to save my own lardy arse. I happened upon a film called Cowpolis, or Cowtrocity, or some such appalling mash up of the English language, and it had me convinced.
“Let’s go vegan” I said, and the Mrs said “yes, let’s” “Let’s dig up the garden”, I said, and the Mrs said, “yes, dig the motherfucker up!” “Let’s sign up for a load of 30 day vegan challenge”, I screamed. ”Fuck that” the Mrs murmured. I think it’s fair to say that we found the arguments put forward in the film convincing.
Not everyone is convinced. Having watched the film, I sought out reviews, plenty of which were absolutely certain that the film misrepresented the truth and the facts it presents are not facts, but made up stories. The fact is though, all the hipsters on the film who had got with the programme positively glowed with health, so if I can’t save the planet, I’ll have a go at saving myself, and if my little effort does a bit for our poor, beleaguered planet, well, hooray.
A couple of years ago, following a dramatic cardiac event, I resolved to change my ways: eat better, exercise more. Well, I weigh more now than I did, and I was a fat bastard then. I’ll have the same trouble now. Put a bar of chocolate, a bowl of ice cream or a packet of crisps in front of me, and that’s it. Game over. Let’s not even talk about beer. Also, I don’t like vegetables. We may be in for a bumpy ride.
So far, so so so. I’ve been at it for about 3 weeks, and if we overlook  the chocolate, the crisps and the ice cream, I’ve done well. If we don’t overlook those things, my progress has been, er, erratic. I’m not mentioning the beer.
When it comes to meals, I’ve surprised myself. I think I’ve had one bacon and egg sarnie, on a hungover Saturday morning, and that’s all the meat I’ve had. I’ve become something of a chai wallah at work and drink only organic tea not requiring milk, or some bloody herbal infusion or other. I still have my morning cuppa on rising though. There have been two other fairly major changes. I go to bed early, no later than 11 and more usually around ten. That helps me with the other big change and a major challenge……getting up early and having a 20 to 30 minute meditate every day. It’s not as straightforward as you might think.
A further challenge is porridge. Give me a saucepan and a hob and I’m a genius, give me a bowl and a microwave and I’m an idiot. Every day at work there is a porridge related drama, either far too sloppy, or far too stodgy, or exploded all over the damn machine. I’ve tried it at home and two and a half minutes does it, at work though, who knows? I’ve decided to err on the sloppy side, as cleaning the damn microwave every day was as embarrassing as it was laborious. Once it has had 3 minutes. I take it out, whatever state it’s in…….if it’s a thin gruel, I add a load of chia seeds which I keep in a little pot, and within a couple of minutes, it has thickened. Those little bastards soak up liquid like I do on a Friday night
Regardless of the drama, I have hit upon the perfect recipe, and here it is.
4 tablespoons porridge
Little handful dried coconut
Little handful sultanas
Tiny squirt of maple syrup
Decent sprinkle of cinammon
300mls non dairy milk  ( I use KOKO or Almond, whatever is on offer)
Chia seeds, depending on how it turns out.
Into the microwave 2-3 minutes, Bob’s yer uncle.
I eat that shit, every single day, and it’s really, really nice.

The world will be delighted and beside itself to know that I’ll be posting recipes regularly, but only nice, easy to do ones. I might even stick a photo up every now and then, mind you; most things just look like a big pile of stodge.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

EOTR '15

As usual, EOTR clashed with the first week of the school term, so decisions had to be made about what was more important, education, or hedonism. Hedonism won, no contest. Then the daughter decided she couldn’t miss the first day of her new life as a 6th former, which, bizarrely, began on a Friday, so hedonism was no longer the winner, however the younger 14 year child had no such qualms about missing school, so let’s call it a score draw. Me and son travelled Thursday, daughter and mother followed on Friday, straight from school.
The first indication that the weekend was going to be a good ‘un arrived as we sailed around a huge roundabout outside Bath, every light on green, which I have never known before. We cheered.
The benefit of arriving on Thursday became apparent as we were able to park very close to Mr Trolley, and thus pretty close to the entrance, saving ourselves a knackering slog. I had expected huge queues at the wristband exchange, but there was hardly anyone there and we strolled through. We had opted to take the cowards way out and had booked a pre erected tent, so no more than half an hour after parking up, we were in the tent, unpacked and one of us was getting stuck into the John Smiths, while the other sussed out the charging points, water points, bogs and showers.
I always view any entertainment that they put on Thursday night as a free bonus…..being installed, rested and ready for the main event is the reason for getting there a day early. I’d be quite happy to grab a bit of scoff, a drink and retire early with a good book, however, the young ‘un was with me, so that wasn’t really an option. I braved the crowds of excitable teens in the Tipi to see Menace Beach, who were good, and Palma Violets who were incredible. The best bit was seeing the 2 security guys playing a human version of whackamole trying to keep all the stage invaders at bay.
Ist night kip
It was a bloody awful nights kip. If I hadn’t had the last 2 cans maybe I wouldn’t have had to get up 3 times for a piss, but I think it was as much to do with it being freezing fucking cold. When I say it was freezing, I mean it was FREEZING. I was well wrapped up, but it felt like the middle of winter, not the end of summer.
On top of this, there were some toddlers 2 tents down. I don’t mind toddlers, I was one myself, and I have had 3 of my own, so I know what the little buggers can be like. I do mind selfish, middle class parents who, instead of encouraging the little ones to go to sleep, indulge them in singing horrible, cloying nursery songs, very loud. Until gone 2 am.
There’s more. We had gone back to the tent at about 11ish, maybe half eleven….early, anyway. At about 12ish, a big group of women appeared, having a laugh, and went to their tents, where they continued to have a laugh. Soon after, a group of chaps arrived and joined the women, whereupon the laughter and the chatter got louder. This didn’t bother me so much as the nippers did. Twas first night of a festival, they had clearly had a decent drink and were enjoying themselves. Not really a problem, they weren’t being sweary or obnoxious. My tolerance level dropped a bit though, when some chump started strumming a guitar.
After about half hour of this, still only about half twelve or quarter to one, I heard a very stern voiced woman demand that they be quiet, as she was trying to get some kip, and they were preventing her from doing so. It was like turning off a switch, they immediately zipped it, and no more was heard from them. The nippers, however, carried on, aided and abetted by their parents, who were possessed of the type of middle class voice that demands that everyone within a 50 yard radius must hear their banalities. It is quite interesting that the stern lady couldn’t cope with adults having a bit of fun at half twelve, but had no problem with a family group making even more noise until well past 2.
Up early to avoid queue for the showers and get phones on to charge in the charging tent. Very good showers. Lovely and hot, and quite spacious inside. Despite a bit of a palaver with some scoundrel unplugging my phone when it was only 17% charged, it was a lovely, restful morning and a beautiful relaxed start to the day……another benefit of a Thursday arrival. It is amazing how quickly the morning went, doing absolutely nothing. Before I knew it, it was time to get into the spirit of the thing.
On the way over to see Ryley Walker, one of my “must sees”, I popped into the Big Top to have a look at Love LUV. I didn’t see much of ‘em, but I dug ‘em.
I was gobsmacked to find the Garden Stage absolutely heaving for Ryley Walker. It was only 12.30 for gawds sake. I soon saw why so many had been attracted there…….he was incredible, and so was his band. He seemed as surprised as anyone at the size of the crowd that had turned up, and looked and sounded as if he was enjoying himself. I was certainly enjoying myfuckingself. What a start.
Being a Birmingham fan, I was a bit worried now. On the rare occasions we score early, I shit myself, the rationale being: things can only go downhill from here……….I wondered how the hell the rest of the festival could match up to what I had just seen.
I legged it from the Garden Srtage to the Woods for Andrew Combs. Well, this was a treat as the festival went 2-0 with superb set from Andrew Combs and his fantastic, and cool looking band. The bonus was I learned how to say his name. Combs, not Coombes. I had heard Ryley Walkers record and liked it, but he was much better here than I expected and the same was true of Combs. I love his album, but here there was a bit more oomph to the music, and it suited it well.
On a day in which I would end up absolutely knackered from all the toing and froing, I headed back to the Garden (there’s a song there) to catch a bit of Juan Waters. He was OK, more than OK, I liked him a lot, very engaging and quirky and seemingly a bit nervous. He reminded me a bit of Jonathan Richman, only a bit though
Back over to the bastard Woods stage to sit by the bar in the sunshine, listening to Oscar and enjoying my first draught, as opposed to tinned ale of the weekend. Funky Monkey, and it wasn’t long before the second pint. Oscar sounded alright, I’ll be seeing him support Ezra Furman soon enough, so I was happy to sit in the sun, with my beer, just enjoying the ambience.
Fuck me if I didn’t trek all the way back to the Garden for Frazey Ford. Jesus. What a treat that was……another who surpassed all expectations. She seemed to be really enjoying herself and commented on the famed EOTR vibe, self identifying as a hippy freak.
Later, on the same stage, it was a bit of a privilege to see Natalie Prass capture everyone’s heart with what may have been the set of the weekend. She is possessed of wit, charm and cheek and the impromptu version of Johnny B Goode was a right chuffing laugh.
So, before the first afternoon was out, I had seen 4 brilliant performances, plus, little bits of other, really enjoyable sets. I no longer cared what the rest of the festival had in store. What I had already seen was good enough.
The one worrying aspect was the tosser quotient, which seems to increase year on year. If people want a chat, have a chat, there’s plenty of space, and if you want to chat at the back, have a chat, I can move further forward if it bothers me that much. What I don’t understand is why, when the place is still far from full, people, lots of ‘em, go right to the front, ignore the band completely while they shout at each other, then whoop and holler at the end of each song as if it’s the best thing they have ever heard. Bewildering.
As is always the case, the later sets become a bit a blur. Best news of the day was the Mrs and daughter finally turning up about 3 hours after ETA.
Evenings at EOTR aren’t really for me anymore. I’m too old, too decrepit and it all gets too busy as the festival lovers come out to join the music lovers. My tolerance levels for the overly ecstatic, the overly indifferent and the overly refreshed isn’t what it once was. There’s still plenty to enjoy though, not least the goddam pies.
I wandered about a bit from stage to stage to sparkly woodland and back again and around again. I caught a bit of Fuzz, liked ‘em a lot initially but quickly grew weary of ‘em, then I caught a little bit of Django Django, a little bit of Jane Weaver neither of whom offended, then saw a brilliant set in the Tipi from Darren Hayman. I don’t know how long he was on, but it wasn’t long enough. Loved the bugger, literate, funny self deprecating and he sung a socialist anthem. What more could a motherfucker want?
We finished up sitting under that big canopy thing near the real ale  tent, getting some down us, listening to the Tame Impala set  from afar, watching the light show. It was a beautiful half hour. The young un’s were down by the barrier and loved it. By now I was seriously cold and knackered so no late night secret sets or forest discos…….home  and into bed. I was spark out before my head hit the pillow. It had been an epic day.
Woke up for a piss several times through the night and each time the airbed was noticeably squishier, before it gave up the ghost and completely deflated itself, the bastard. Still felt quite refreshed though and was first to the charging tent and the showers again. The bogs, even after a night of revellers utilising them, were remarkably clean.
To be frank, Saturday was pretty shit, although we still managed to have a bloody lovely day and the young ‘uns saw some bands they liked. Once again, we were surprised to find the Garden Stage jam packed by 12 o’clock. We had gone over to have a look at Hooton Tennis Club but there was barely an inch to be had between the picnic blankets, chairs and slumbering sprawlers………and no one was about to give up any space, even space they didn’t really need. I liked the sound of the band and we ended up in that little garden bit with a little statue and the peacocks, and it was lovely.
Scanning the programme we decided that as nothing was grabbing us by the bollocks we would just go and find a nice spot by the Woods stage, not too far from the bar, let the music, whatever it happened to be, drift over us and just chill the day away. This meant missing H Hawkline,  who had been on my must see list, but ya can’t have everything.
We saw a bit of Duke Spirit, who I found quite dull, then I made my way to The Big Top for Peter Mathew Bauer. He proved a bit of a revelation, much punchier than on record and he was banging ‘em out at  a rate of knots. I dug the fuck out of him, but he seemed to be in a hell of a hurry to get out of there.
Through the day I saw bits and pieces of loads of bands but mostly just relaxed, and had a fine time getting gently sozzled and having a laugh with the Mrs and kids. I saw a bit of Du Blonde, she was pretty good but she could lose the lame between song patter. I heard, rather than saw Slow Club and they were rather lovely. I caught a bit of Stealing Sheep, but they got on my nerves, a bit, and I saw an interview Uncut did with a Sleaford Mod which was excruciating.
The evening passed me by. I found My Morning Jacket a bit polished and boring, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for EX Hex and I managed to stay for 1 Fat White Family song.
I had been torn all week between Mark Lanegan and Sufjan Stevens. I opted, briefly, for the latter. We were about halfway down and surrounded by fuck faced chatterboxes and clowns who seemed to think we had come to watch their tomfoolery, rather than the band. I gave it 15 minutes and left, in a sulk. I didn’t last much longer with Mark Lanegan……I think I was just a bit out of sorts, and found myself back at the real ale bar quaffing the real ale, listening to the end of Sufjan, and bless my soul, I was content.
Warm and Sunny, by God.
Before the festival it had looked likely that I might spend the whole damn day at the Garden stage, but again, the place was absolutely heaving from very early on, and wasn’t a particularly relaxing place to be, in fact, it was quite a precarious place to be, with food and drink laden people trying to pick a tip toe route around the sprawled out slumberers.
What a start though. Charlie Cunninghham. He is astonishingly good and he was clearly a bit overwhelmed by the size of the crowd and the response he was getting. It was a brilliant set, made all the better by the appreciative and increasingly enthusiastic crowd. I shall be seeing that bugger again, no question.
I stayed at the Garden stage for Kevin Morby as the women of the family went shopping for frocks. I think I made the better decision. EOTR always seems to get the Sunday scheduling just right. Morby’s gentle rocking was perfect for the time, the stage and the weather.
I saw half an hour of the absolutely sublime Delines before making the agonising decision to leg it over to the Woods stage for Dawes. I love Dawes, and I don’t know why. It’s as if they have bought a jigsaw on how to make formulaic rootsy Americana and put it together, but by Christ they put it together well. I loved their sunny, soaraway set, and it put me in a right fucking good mood.
I missed Allvays in favour of Giant Sand, and once the initial sound problems had been sorted out, we were treated to a cool, mellow and loquacious performance. Sunday was matching Friday for sheer excellence.
Once again, the headliners held little allure and the decision had to be made who to see next. The nippers love Mac DiMarco and the Mrs likes him too, and as they were due to abandon me after his set, I decided to give it a go…….the first set that the 4 of us had seen together all weekend. Well, the music largely passed me by, but I really enjoyed the set…….he is a very engaging young man and the guitarists chucking their guitars across the stage at each other, and catching ‘em, before continuing playing was a bit of a spectacle and the cake fight at the end, was hilarious. It was fun and fitting end to proceedings for the young ‘uns. Then they were gone, and I was on my own.
In years past, if I’d been left alone at a festival, I’d have been straight into the ale and looking forward to a very late night of tipi tent mayhem. But that was then. This is now. I got into the Big Top for the last half hour of Brakes extremely good and energetic set, but my spark had gone.
I wandered back to the Garden Stage for Laura Marling but my innate hatred of the posh classes got the better of me and I soon departed for pie and peas, before trudging forlornly back to the now empty and lonely tent, serenaded by The War On Drugs as their set came to an end.
I was up and on the road home by 6.15 am, with only a beautiful sunrise for company.

Roll on September 2016